Chef Maneet Chauhan is the founding partner and president of Nashville’s Morph Hospitality Group, a collection of four restaurants with diverse culinary themes. She has been featured extensively on the Food Network and is the recipient of the 2012 Media Broadcast Award from the James Beard Foundation. Perhaps best known as a judge on Chopped, Chauhan will emerge from behind the judges’ table to She’ll join forces with chefs Pushkar Marathe and Julien Gremaud for the Spice lunch at Avocado Grill in West Palm Beach December 13 and will also lead a Kids Kitchen cooking class at the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach December 14. Here, Chauhan chats with PBI about her adoration for Palm Beach, Nashville, and Indian food. (pbfoodwinefest.com)
PBI: You receive many invitations to appear at culinary festivals. What’s special about Palm Beach?
Chauhan: I personally love Palm Beach. It’s such an amazing place to hold a festival. I’m excited that the Four Seasons is the venue because it’s one of my favorite hotel chains—they do everything so well.
What’s the most common misconception Americans have about Indian food?
The first is that Indian food is an $8.95 all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s so much more than that! Another is that Indian food is very difficult to make. I think a lot of people have a fear of making Indian cuisine, and they just don’t try to make it.
Nashville is your adopted home. Do you see any similarities between Southern cooking and Indian cuisine?
Absolutely. The South is the home of soul food, and I think Indian food has a soulful existence of its own. Similar foods are used in Indian and Southern cuisines, like black-eyed peas and okra.
You’re co-owner of Mantra Artisan Ales. Is there a special affinity between craft beer and the dishes you create?
When Vivek (my husband and partner) and I were opening Chauhan Ale & Masala House, we were working on the beverage menu and came up with the idea of spiced beers, as they’re a natural flavor affiliate to Indian food and ethnic food. A lot of the beers, like the chai stout, were created exclusively to go with our food.
If you could cook for one historical figure or celebrity, alive or dead, who would it be?
I really want to cook for Stephen Colbert.